A vibrant, thoughtful memoir reflecting contemporary black cultural concerns.

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A DROP OF MIDNIGHT

A MEMOIR

A memoir from a Swedish hip-hop artist with a multiracial background.

In his debut, Diakité looks at themes such as race, manhood, family ties, and rootlessness with an unusual stance and fresh, sometimes-striking voice. His writing has an ethereal, questioning quality, in sync with his background as the son of an African American man and a white American woman who moved to Sweden and then divorced. “I was never American, never Swedish, never white but never black either,” he writes. “I was a no-man’s-land in the world. I have a complex system of roots that branches across continents, ethnicities, classes, colors, and eras….Must I have just one origin?” Both parents are portrayed as complex, with mixed feelings about their experiences. As his mother notes, “to experience the same ignorance, the same fear, the same hate, in Sweden, weighed heavy on us.” Diakité captures the cruelty of childhood peers alongside his dawning perceptions regarding race, and he reflects on the cultural awakening that led him to success as a rapper in Sweden. “You might call Reagan the godfather of gangster rap,” he writes. “Under his rule was born the music made of hard drums and urgent voices.” The two primary narrative threads are his travels to the U.S., in an attempt to weigh his personal history against a larger story of racial marginalization, and his tenuous relationship with his father. Accompanied by a filmmaker friend, he visited places including rural South Carolina, Harlem, New Orleans, Baltimore, and tourist-oriented slave plantations (and one acknowledging the black perspective). Everywhere he grimly observes hidden narratives of the long-term mistreatment of black communities, tied to the original sin of slavery: “Real people—my forefathers—were whipped, tortured, herded, and sold like livestock.” Diakité explores family history that reflects much African American experience, including Jim Crow, Harlem in its prime, and the embrace of Afrocentrism in the 1960s. While his storytelling is occasionally heavy-handed or repetitive, the author’s prose is often nimble and observant, sharply considering the burdens surrounding race and masculinity.

A vibrant, thoughtful memoir reflecting contemporary black cultural concerns.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1707-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AmazonCrossing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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